When culinary arts student Connor Twiddy began the Work-Based Learning portion of his studies at College of The Albemarle a few months ago, he admits his knife skills were probably a little rusty and he hadn’t had much experience as a baker.
But three-and-a-half months after his co-op experience ended, concluding Twiddy’s training in the busy kitchen at Café Lachine in Nags Head, he has those skills plus a host of others. The Work-Based Learning program, a requirement for students graduating with a culinary arts technology diploma, is a year-long program that requires students to complete 160-hours of on-the-job training.
“It’s an essential part of our teaching platform,” said Leslie Lippincott, culinary arts instructor at COA. “We use a two-pronged approach to teaching. There’s the theoretical knowledge from a textbook and then we do hands-on experience in the kitchen.”
Lippincott said the co-op program is invaluable to students because it lets them see what it is like to work in a busy commercial kitchen with waiters calling out orders, line cooks busily responding and preparing plates, all amidst the noise of loud dishwashers running and pots and pans being banged around.
“So you have to be able to stay on task and you learn how to do it properly and how to do it fast,” Lippincott said. “You have to feel that in place. Nothing can beat that sense of urgency, the clamor that is a commercial kitchen.”
This May, Lippincott has 10 students graduating from the Edenton campus – where the program is located – with their Culinary Arts Technology Diplomas. All students completed their co-ops and Lippincott said not all the training took place in commercial kitchens. Some students were placed in country clubs, public school kitchens, in nursing homes as dieticians, with health inspectors in the Chowan County Health Department and at Chowan Hospital. Lippincott tried to place students in environments based on where they wanted to work after earning their culinary arts diplomas.
“Work-Based Learning is an opportunity for students to learn valuable job skills related to their field of study,” said Lynn Jennings, Work-Based Learning Liasion. “In addition to gaining work experience, students can develop references for future job searches – all while earning college credit.”
When Twiddy graduates in a month, he already has a job lined up. Justin Lachine, owner of Café Lachine, was so pleased with Twiddy’s development he has hired the 18-year-old to work full-time in his restaurant.
“We started depending on him a little bit and he’s a great guy to teach,” Lachine said of his decision to permanently hire Twiddy. “There were definitely things I didn’t have to tell him, and there were things I did. He’s been doing great. He went through his program and got his hours for it early.”
Twiddy feels fortunate to have landed a co-op spot at Café Lachine. He said Lachine was a patient boss who helped him if the kitchen wasn’t too busy.
“He was a good teacher,” Twiddy said. “He’d always take time to help me if I needed to learn something.”
Since January, Twiddy has worked about 20 hours a week at Café Lachine. He helped to prepare entrees, make sandwiches and salads, helped with catering events and learned the ropes as a barista making coffees.
And then there were the early morning wake-up calls. Twiddy happily worked the 4 a.m. to noon bakery shifts as well, learning how to make from scratch white, whole wheat and seeded rye breads, as well as cookies, cakes and pies. The smells that filled the kitchen on those early mornings, were heavenly.
“It’s hard not to want to sample everything,” Twiddy said.
Besides being able to sample all the great food, working at the Outer Banks restaurant provided Twiddy with something much more invaluable.
“I think with the co-op, it helps you develop your skills and helps you to develop new ones,” Twiddy said. “And it helps you decide if you want to stay with it. I got to improve and practice all that (Leslie Lippincott) taught me when I got into the co-op.”
To find out if your program of study offers Work-Based Learning (Co-op) classes, please contact Lynn Jennings, Work-Based Learning Liaison at email@example.com